CH-148 CYCLONE HELICOPTER

INTRODUCTION

The CH-148 Cyclone is the replacement helicopter for the fleet of long-serving CH-124 Sea Kings. After an incredibly long procurement period lasting 25+ years, a contract was finally signed with Sikorsky Aircraft.  On 23 November 2004, Canada's Department of National Defence announced the awarding of a C$1.8 billion contract to Sikorsky Aircraft for the production of  28 helicopters and a second worth $3.2 billion for 20 years of maintenance and logistical support plus a simulation and training package.

The CH-148 is based on the Sikorsky H-92 civilian medium-lift transport/utility helicopter which is a larger derivative of the ubiquitous H-60 family that comprise most of the US Navy’s current fleet. It makes heavier use of corrosion-proof composite materials and also sports uprated engines, a rear ramp, and other features that place it in a similar class to Europe's NH90. However there were no other military operators of the H-92.

On 19 Feb 2010 at 2330 hours, the first CH-148 arrived at CFB Shearwater. This particular helicopter, with a US registration number, is a stripped down version of the final design and came here for testing and primarily to develop specifications for  "Ship Helicopter Operating Limits". Cyclone 801 as it's referred to by Sikorsky, made its first ever landing on a ship, HMCS Montréal, at 1909 hours on 25 March 2010. The ship was anchored in the harbour as the new helicopter went through its takeoff and landing cycles. HMCS Montréal received several modifications for the trials including adding green filters to the flight deck landing lights and reinforcing the flight deck due to the Cyclone being heavier than the CH-124.

ch148_8441rcs.jpg
The prototype CH-148 during preliminary flight trials in March 2010.  This aircraft is owned by Sikorsky hence the American registration N4901C. Note the torpedo attached to the starboard sponson. (Photographer unknown) 

DELIVERY ISSUES

The Cyclones were announced under a former Liberal government with considerable fanfare as the replacement for the Sea Kings. Since then, Peter MacKay, the Conservative defence minister, has called the delays the "worse debacle in Canadian procurement history." He blamed former prime minister Jean Chrétien for his decision in 1993 to cancel the purchase of a fleet of Agusta Westland maritime helicopters that the Conservatives had ordered under then-prime minister Brian Mulroney.

A decade later, after numerous redrafting of the original specifications, the Liberal government chose the Sikorsky alternative, despite criticism that the Cyclone was a new and untested design and would be unlikely to meet deadlines. In addition, the Cyclone had no other military operators in the world.

After the contract was signed, there were more delays. For instance, a spokeswoman for Sikorsky said (in  May 2010) that the engine redesign of the General Electric engines will produce 10 per cent more horsepower for the fleet of 28 Cyclones. General Electric was making modifications to the engine because the helicopter was heavier than expected. However, Marianne Heffernan said the engine changes won't add to the $5 billion cost of the helicopters or further delay their delivery, set for June 2012, about four years behind schedule. "GE is developing the new CT7-8A7 engine using their in-house funds," she said in an e-mail. The initial  Cyclone helicopter delivery was to start in November 2008 using CT7-8A engine. The new CT7-8A7 engine will have changes to the fuel manifold and fuel nozzles, as well as to nozzles leading into the turbine. Other delays included contract renegotiations.

Instead of delivering at a rate of one per month, Sikorsky will deliver only 6 helicopters by June 2012. The remaining 22 helicopters will be fully operational versions, including upgraded engines. As they arrive, the initial 6 helicopters will be pulled back for engine retrofits and any other required modifications. All of this failed to materialize.

On June 19  2015,  the Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. today delivered six CH-148 Cyclone helicopters to the Canadian government during an acceptance celebration joined by Canada's Defense Minister Jason Kenney, Public Works and Government Services Minister Diane Finley, Justice Minister Peter MacKay and Regional Ministers. Representing Sikorsky, a subsidiary of United Technologies Corp., was William Gostic, Vice President of the CH-148 Maritime Helicopter Program (MHP), who hailed the event as "a major milestone for the Canadian Armed Forces, our industry partners, Sikorsky, and all of our employees committed to this unique and highly-sophisticated aircraft." The six helicopters represent the first of 28 Cyclone aircraft that Sikorsky will deliver to the Canadian Armed Forces.

The aircraft being accepted will be based at 12 Wing Shearwater and are being used for training and testing with Canadian Armed Forces personnel. In its final configuration, the CH-148 Cyclone will be capable of a full range of anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare, search and rescue, and utility missions in various environments and will be one of the most capable maritime helicopters in the world. The chopper still has to achieve that staus before it can be considered operational.

DESIGN FEATURES

The CH-148 is based on Sikorsky’s civilian H-92 Superhawk and uses a lot of composite fabrication to reduce corrosion. Standard, self-sealing fuel tanks can carry up to 3,030 kg of fuel, and an in-flight refuelling probe allows in-air refueling. Emergency flotation systems under the cockpit and in the tailboom are automatically deployed and are expected to work up to Sea State 5 conditions. If they fail, or aren't practical, a 15-man life raft is installed in each sponson.

The 17 cubic meter cabin is fitted with a cargo handling system with a centerline 1,814 kg/ 4,000 pound capacity cargo winch, floor rollers, and cargo tie-down points. A 6 foot-wide aft ramp allows easy and fast loading and unloading of cargo and troops. A 272 kg/ 600 pound capacity hydraulic rescue hoist can reportedly be added to the helicopter if necessary. The CH-148 should fly for 170 minutes under extreme conditions and fly over 30 minutes with a dry gearbox.

A number of safety features such as flaw tolerance, bird strike capability and engine burst containment have been incorporated into the design. An active vibration system ensures comfortable flight and acoustic levels are well below certification requirements. The helicopter will use Martin Baker crashworthy seats. Cyclones are assembled in Stratford, CT, but key parts are made elsewhere.

BASIC CHARACTERISTICS

Quantity ordered: 28
Delivery start expected by: June or November 2012 ( depending on the source)
Length: ?
Width: ?
Main rotor diameter: ?
Tail rotor diameter:?
Fuel capacity:  6680 pounds (3,030 kg)
Empty Weight: ?
Maximum weight: ?
Engines: 2 x CT7-8A7 (final production version)
Flight endurance: 2 hours 50 minutes plus 30 minutes (per input requirement)
Cruise Speed:  120 knots
Service Ceiling: 10,000 ft.
Armament:  Antisubmarine torpedoes and a machine gun.
Crew:  Two pilots, a TACCO-Mission Commander and a SENSO (Sensor Operator)

OTHER INFORMATION
Electronics Suite
Other Photos

Credits and References:

1) Ernest Cable <erncar(at)ns.sympatico.ca>
2) Canada's New Navy Helicopters Need Second Change Of Engine Design: by  Michael Tutton,  The Canadian Press
21/05/2010
3) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sikorsky_CH-148_Cyclone
4) http://www.helicoptersmagazine.com/content/view/203/63/
5) http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/
 

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June 20/15